Thursday, June 5, 2014

Regress is Progress

I keep adding to my current 4-chapter novella without actually getting very far on part 4.  In my latest round of revisions, I decided to try and figure out exactly what story I'm trying to tell here.  The simple answer is, "A gaming world becomes real, with the help of the heroes".  This was my original plot and it was very boring because there were no surprises, no twists and turns, no conflict except with a big bad monster at the end in which the victory of the heroes was clearly predestined.

In my second incarnation of the story, I've added a lot of twists and turns.  I've added villains, I transformed the big bad monster into a more complex and sympathetic character, I've added a ton more characters and plotlines in an attempt to flesh out and fully explore the whole idea.  But until yesterday I really hadn't taken the time to figure out who my main protagonists were.  The heroes are theoretically the protagonists -- but they don't really change much over the course of the story.  There are actually two sets of heroes, and the second group has the opportunity to change quite a bit more, but I hadn't really worked hard at that angle.  Meanwhile, I had a group of other characters who do change (or should change) over the course of the story that I wasn't always focusing on.

After identifying the characters who should be main protagonists -- those who actually go on a journey, who are different at the end of the story than they were at the beginning -- I sketched out a bunch of new scenes that I'll need to write.  So I'm kind of blowing up the story a bit; I have to go back again to the first three chapters and rewrite things.  But I think I'm finally figuring out how to make this story really work.

1.  The world of Elowhen is a protagonist itself.  It goes from being a shadow of a game world to being a fully-functioning independent world or alternative reality.  That was always the original idea, and I think it's still important to remember to tell that story in any ways that I can, so I want to keep in mind that the world itself is one of my characters.  A scene in which the heroes witness how the people of Elowhen are still trapped into doing things over and over, as if they were still a part of the game, helps demonstrate why the world needs help, and gives more motivation for them later when they want to go back and really fix things for good.

2.  Gammatron.  This is one of two people who bring the heroes to Elowhen to try and fix things.  In his zeal to free his friends from the game code, to help everyone in Elowhen become self-aware as he has, he ignores warnings about what the consequences will be.  Later he realizes what a mistake that was.  When I consider this, a prologue scene where he makes the decision to free his friends at any cost now seems obvious to me.  I had a prologue where the major villain awoke, but it's Gammatron seeing his friends trapped in static looped actions and speech patterns that helps you understand why he's so desperate to free his world.

3.  Katy.  One of the characters (sidekick to Grandpa Anarchy) who originally goes to Elowhen and is changed in an obvious way.  She's also an obvious choice for an internal change.  She is the counterpoint to Lard Lad, who is a sidekick who will eventually join the League of Former Sidekicks, becoming a villain.  Katy needs to go the opposite route and embrace being a hero, and embrace the person she's become.  I've sketched out several scenes in the later part of chapter 3 in which Katy makes friends with some of the other young people who are drafted into trying to save Elowhen, and in which she more clearly defines herself as not agreeing with Lard Lad's outlook on life.

4.  Gothika.  This is a code name for a character who is a sleeper agent for the villain.  She's a mental copy of one of the villain's best allies, but she should go through a change of her own.  I'd already written quite a few scenes for her without understanding why she was so important to the story, other than to move the plot along.  She is furthering the goals of the villain -- but she is also no more than a tool for the villain.  She comes into contact with the heroes, and that should affect her view of the world.  More importantly, I think she may be the key to helping Katy change.  Knowing more about her and the story arc she's travelling on means I now need to rework the scenes that she's in, which I did some of today.

5.  The second group of heroes.  This is the counterpart to the League of Two-Fisted Justice, and I don't anticipate them changing in a major way over the course of the story, but they all eventually change their minds about coming back to Earth, and all return to Elowhen.  That's really their major change -- a change of heart, a decision to join the effort to save this other world -- but I'm not sure I've told it effectively enough.  I need to write a few short scenes to make it more clear how they all come to that decision.

6.  The Save Elowhen Group.  This is the group of former players who are trying to bring the game back or recreate the game in some way.  They're the most fanatical of the former players of the game.  I haven't explored this group much, but one of the plot threads that becomes more important near the end of the story is that many of the people who used to play the game World of Hero will get the chance to actually become the heroes they once played in the game.  (It's kind of a "have your cake and eat it too" offer -- they remain on earth, but they also become heroes on Elowhen.)  This is crucial to saving the world of Elowhen, but I really didn't have any scenes with them early in the story, except for a prologue and one later scene involving one former player of the game who was not identified as connected to this group in any way.  I don't need to focus on them much, but at least one or two more scenes about their desire to bring the game back and their love for the game world are in order to help set up later scenes, and I think I need to connect Jennifer (the single player mentioned in the first prologue) with this Save Elowhen campaign.

7.  Lady Carnival Act.  I'm still debating this one, but through the magic of a game world that is in the process of becoming a real one, the villain Carnival Act clones himself not once, but several times.  (Which also allows me to kill off one or more of him!)  Early in the story there is a female Carnival Act which is the character he used to play in the game World of Hero.  She may get killed off.  Or not.  Or maybe killed and then brought back to life again, through the same process that brought her to life in the first place.  But what I'm really debating is whether I'd like to have her (or a version of her) give up on villainy and become a hero.  I haven't decided yet, or written any scenes along those lines, but it's another idea that I'm floating in the back of my brain.

Anyway, in the meantime, I have a lot of reworking to do in order to get this story into better shape.  I'm still a bit worried about how the story is balanced.  Right now, the first two chapters are a kind of prologue to the real plots of the story, which means chapters 3 and 4 are much, much longer.  I haven't decided yet if chapters 1 and 2 really need to be consolidated into a single chapter or not, but that may turn out to be the case.

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